Stop the War on Black Lives

by Annie Leonard

August 27, 2020

We need to dismantle the systems that exploit people and planet, and a core part of that is the fight for justice every single day.

Greenpeace US activists walk a large Black Lives Matter banner down 16th NW toward the White House. Activists on the streets adopted the banner chanting "Make Way For The Flag" as they moved it through the massive crowds to the fence in front of Lafayette Square near the White House. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. During an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white American police officer, kept his knee on the side of Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down. During the last three minutes, Floyd was motionless. After Floyd's death, demonstrations and protests against racism and police brutality were held across the US and the world, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the movement and gathering restrictions put in place by governments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

We are in a crisis. The brutal police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the shooting of Jacob Blake, the slaying of Trayford Pelleri—and the militarized police escalation across the country show us once again that people in this country are not free. Our response must be urgent and meaningful. 

Many of you reading this right now may have been involved in the struggle for racial justice for years, but I also know some folks may be wondering why Greenpeace, the “save the whales” group is speaking up to say Black Lives Matter.

At the root of all of the work that we as a community do—whether it’s for the environment, whether it’s for democracy, whether it’s to change a racist system where Black folks are targeted for violence—the unifying thread is this: we must dismantle the systems that exploit people and planet, and a core part of that is the fight for justice every single day. We simply can never create a green and peaceful future if systems of white supremacy, colonialism, and privilege continue to destroy the environment and strip Black communities of their dignity—and too often, their lives.

We all know that Black and Brown communities disproportionately suffer health impacts from pollution, which is why demanding Environmental Justice has long been a core principle in all our environmental work. But we need to do more.

Since 2015, police have shot and killed roughly twice as many Black people as white people, despite the fact that there are about six times more white people than Black people in the United States.1 Black people are 2.5 times more likely than white to be killed by the police. Black parents, spouses, children, and neighborhoods lose members of their family far too frequently. This violence and murder needs to stop. These are people’s lives — not just numbers. The country is in outrage, and so am I.

We need to demand justice and support the fight now. Not just today, which is especially important, but next week, next month, after the next election, after the cameras and news crews have left. The sad truth is that police kill or commit violence against unarmed Black men almost every day, not just those times when it is caught on camera and is covered in the news. In all of 2019, there were only 27 days where police did not kill someone.2 We must be unified as a movement for justice—racial justice, environmental justice, economic justice, social justice—everywhere, for as long as it takes.

As a white person who strives to be an ally to the Movement for Black Lives, I know that I can’t look away, that I have to engage. I hope you will as well, it takes all of us. If you are like me and my family, you may be wondering how to help in this crisis. Taking leadership from Black-led activists, here are a few ways to channel your feelings of grief and outrage into action.

Taking action, donating, and supporting this movement today shouldn’t be the end of our activism—it should be the start. The resources here are national, and in your community, there are likely local groups working to address police violence, to steer your tax dollars into critical services instead of militarizing the police, to reform your community government. Local officials understand that even a few hundred votes can turn an election for or against them, and they need to hear from us now. I encourage us all to take time to do our own research on how to support Black organizers and community members in our city or town. Then let our elected officials know what we want to end violent policing and prioritize programs and policies that make our communities more safe, more inclusive, and more just.

In the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis, it is Black and Brown people who are disproportionately affected. It is Essential Workers, many of whom are people of color, who are risking their lives providing the essential services that we all rely on. Essential Workers deserve protection, but instead of PPE and government support, they’re being pushed aside while powerful corporations loot millions in taxpayer dollars and the Senate stalls on further relief.

From higher asthma rates due to fossil fuel companies polluting Black communities to unjust laws that allow police and vigilantes to walk free after brutally killing innocent people in the street, the need for justice has never been more clear, pressing, or urgent.

The time for solidarity, for action, with our brothers, sisters, and siblings in the Black community is now.

No justice, no peace. #BlackLivesMatter

Annie Leonard
Executive Director, Greenpeace USA

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/29/heres-why-we-dont-see-protests-when-police-unjustly-kill-white-people/

[2] https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

Originally published June 11, 2020.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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